Italian prosecutors have requested that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stand trial over accusations he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl and then used his influence to try to cover it up.
Prosecutors filed their request in Milan on Wednesday and are seeking an immediate trial.
A judge must now decide whether to dismiss the request or indict the 74-year-old leader. A decision is expected in the next two weeks.
Berlusconi immediately condemned the move by prosecutors, calling it "disgusting."
"It's shameful, really," Berlusconi told reporters Wednesday in Rome, criticizing the prosecutors' move. "It's shameful and disgusting."
"I wonder who's going to pay for these activities that, in my humble view, only have a subversive aim," Berlusconi added, lamenting that the case had "offended the dignity of the country."
The prosecutors are seeking an immediate trial because they believe there is overwhelming evidence against the premier. The procedure allows prosecutors to skip the preliminary-hearing phase and go straight to court.
They allege Berlusconi paid for sex with a Moroccan girl nicknamed Ruby, who has since turned 18, then used his influence to get her out of police custody when she was detained for a suspected theft, allegedly fearing her relationship to him would be revealed.
Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, ultimately was released into the custody of a Berlusconi aide who also is under investigation.
Girl denies being paid for sex
The prime minister's supporters argue he made the call to avoid a diplomatic incident, and that he believed at the time that the girl was the niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
His defence maintains the case should be handled not by the Milan prosecutors, but by a special tribunal set up to deal with alleged offences committed by public officials.
The prosecution said in a statement that they didn't believe the alleged crime was committed in the exercise of Berlusconi's institutional duties.
Prostitution isn't a crime in Italy, but exploiting or aiding prostitution with minors is.
Karima El Mahroug, now 18, of Morocco, said Berlusconi gave her the equivalent of approximately $9,400 Cdn to attend a party he was at in 2010 — but not for sex.
In January, Berlusconi's lawyers, Nicolo Ghedini and Piero Longo, called the probe "absurd and groundless." They also blamed the media for driving the case, and said the allegations had "already been refuted by all witnesses and people directly involved."